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The Musical Box #26: Bowser attacks

The Musical Box features 30 articles focusing on game music production and implementation. Edition #26: Super Mario Galaxy

The first edition of The Musical Box in 2014 discusses a different, but very interesting subject: medleys (or suites, if you prefer the classical term). These musical entities refer to a combination of two or more different songs/pieces into one cohesive and new arrangement, which is very common in live orchestral presentations of video game music. Nevertheless, we’ll see that they are not equal, especially a phenomenal suite created by Roger Wanamo and inspired by the Mario Galaxy soundtrack.

The Set-Up

Most medleys/suites that we’re used to seeing in game music concerts are very straightforward. The arranger simply tries to connect one piece to another in the most non-invasive way possible, and I don’t think this is a bad decision. Most suites are created to fit a lot of musical material into a single piece, and fans expect to hear those pieces exactly as they appear in the game.

But there are those who are brave enough to push boundaries and deserve to receive credit for their awesome work. This is the case for the Super Mario Galaxy Suite, arranged by Roger Wanamo and featured in the Symphonic Legends orchestral performance.

Wanamo was not afraid to change different elements and incorporate them into these modern classics. In the case of the aforementioned suite, he created a brilliant transition (one of many!) between the tracks “Starbit Festival” and “Attack! Koopa’s Fleet”. He basically made the “Attack!” music gradually appear and eventually dominate the “Festival” theme, which happens at exactly 1:02 of the video below.

To do that, he had to incorporate some of the elements of one piece into another. The rhythmic pattern, for instance, is cohesive in both pieces and by the end of the first piece, you’re mainly listening to the rhythmic element of “Attack!” and the melody of the “Festival” at the same time. On top of that, Wanamo was also brave and savvy enough to include some notes that cause tension during the transition and create a better feeling of satisfaction when the melody of the Bowser theme comes in (again, at 1:02).

The Moment

Check out this clever transition in the video below:


The impact

Creating medleys is hard, probably one of the hardest tasks of an arranger. You have to please the fans and, at the same time, try something new and innovative. Wanamo not only did that in this suite (and not just this one transition, listen to the whole thing), he incorporated avant-garde elements of orchestral music into our beloved and classic soundtrack.

Special thanks: Gilliard Lopes, Rafael Kuhnen, Fernando Secco, Sandro Tomasetti, Roger Wanamo, and Jonne Valtonen.

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